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FACING THE DRUG ABUSE CHALLENGE

From the January 1991 issue of The Christian Science Journal


"The trial illustrated the self-destruction of evil."

Earlier Workshops and testimonies of healing have included instances of individuals overcoming drug abuse and its effect on families. This Workshop looks at some of the broader issues behind drug abuse—the challenges of convicting drug dealers, the sheer enormity of the drug network, spawning quasi-governments headed by drug lords with private armies—and a largely overlooked weapon in the war on drugs: prayer.

Last spring I conducted the trial of a lengthy narcotics case. As a judge I had had many narcotics trials over the years, but the evidence here was particularly terrible. The case was about a one-block-long area; and the amount of heroin and cocaine (specifically "crack") being sold on that one street was appalling, especially since this same scene was being repeated over and over in other locations in our large city. The federal authorities had conducted a thorough investigation, and both the street sellers and the leaders of the operation were all arrested and prosecuted.

One piece of evidence in the case was a tape recording of the drug hawking going on openly. I should add that heroin is sold by specific brand names—like "No Joke" and "Nightmare on Elm Street." Crack often carries the name of the color of the cap on the vial—"Gold Cap" or "Blue Cap." The tape recording was played at the trial, and you could hear the voices calling out, "Get your No Joke. Here, No Joke, No Joke." "Nightmare on Elm Street. Get your Nightmare here. Here's your Nightmare." "Gold Cap. Blue Cap."

I think what took place as the trial progressed, what turned out to be pivotal evidence, provides some illustration of the power of God and the self-destruction of evil. This particular trial involved the leaders of the conspiracy. Also involved was a young man who had worked for them as one of their street sellers. He had been arrested and had then decided to help the prosecution by testifying against his former bosses, who were the defendants. The young man was being held in jail waiting to testify. The defendants sent a lawyer to visit him, who passed on a threat that his mother and baby brother would be in danger for their lives if he testified. The lawyer got the young man to sign a false affidavit saying that he knew nothing about any drug dealings by the defendants.

As it turned out, what the defendants thought would help them was the thing that absolutely assured their conviction. The young man they had sent the threat to had great courage. He testified not only about the drug dealings of the defendants but also about the scheme to prevent his testimony, and it was devastating. One defense lawyer spent hours trying to shake him on cross-examination. The lawyer obviously thought that the young man was a pretty simple fellow and could be manipulated. But by then the young man was an absolute straight arrow. He could never be pulled aside, and he virtually demolished his questioner.

The head of the drug group was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison, and the others to somewhat shorter—but still heavy—terms.


God's power and evil's self-destruction: relevant to contemporary drug issues?

A lot of people feel that the drug problem is so enormous and so difficult that nobody has any real idea of how to cope with it. We hear the remark over and over that for every drug dealer jailed there are ten replacements.

Another part of the story is what goes on in other countries where cocaine producers seem to constitute almost another government, with a huge treasury and their own armed forces. To the way of thinking of a lot of people, the narcotics problem is simply out of control. So the questions arise: Can we defeat it? Or is it going to defeat us?

In looking for the answers to these questions, we cannot do better than to look at what Christ Jesus taught. He had no doubt of the total power of God here and now in human affairs. He began his preaching career by telling the people, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." And at the end of his career he said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." Jesus made it clear that he was not talking about some personal power but the power of the Christ—the expression of God that he embodied and demonstrated.

When we think of the "kingdom of heaven," it is helpful to remember that the word kingdom is just as important as the word heaven. And Jesus knew full well what a kingdom was. Judea, where Jesus lived, had been for many years under the iron rule of the Roman Empire. So Jesus was vividly aware of the power and authority and weight of the human kingdom of those days. When he said that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, this was a way of conveying that God is not a weak and occasional interloper in human affairs but is the power to be reckoned with. And, what is even more remarkable, he said, "The kingdom of God is within you."

If it is true that the kingdom of God is in everyone, then why are people selling and using narcotics? As a way of approaching that question, let's look at some of the things that Jesus has to say about evil. These are passages which we might tend to shy away from, but his teachings about evil are invigorating and comforting. They demolish the idea that evil can run rampant, with us as victims. Jesus referred to his times as "an evil . . . generation." He said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." And this: "I am come to send fire on the earth .... Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division."

This is the same Jesus who told his disciples, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." And who said that it was not the Father's will that one of His little ones should perish. Does this mean that Jesus was loving one minute and hateful the next? Not at all. He was stating the fact that God's power is thoroughly effective in dealing with all phases of human character and condition. Jesus was not sentimental. He knew that the effect of divine Love upon evil is evil's destruction.

Has this Biblical point of view anything to do with what is happening on the streets, in the crack houses, in cocaine fields and manufacturing plants? You know the doubt that comes. "Maybe somewhere there is the kingdom of God. Maybe somewhere the sword of the Spirit is coping with some tame form of evil. But the narcotics problem is just too bad, too intractable—and anyway it's here, and God is nowhere to be seen."

In Tolstoy's great novel War and Peace the plot is largely centered on Napoleon's invasion of Russia. In the early nineteenth century, Napoleon was regarded as the virtual embodiment of evil by most of Europe. Fifty years later Tolstoy wrote that it was clear to everyone that the cause of the destruction of Napoleon's army in 1812 was his invasion of Russia. But no one foresaw it at the time—least of all Napoleon. Here was the best army in the world led by the best general, advancing against the inexperienced Russian army of half the strength. Napoleon bent all his efforts and all his resolve to push on to Moscow, with winter looming—though Russian winters were known to be disastrous—thus doing the very thing bound to bring about his downfall. In Tolstoy's view, evil will do exactly what will work to its own destruction, although the normal human view of things often has no conception of this until the process is all over.

The self-destruction of evil under the law of God is central to the narcotics problem. The material analysis of things doesn't tell us this, but material analysis simply does not give us the whole picture.

Drug lords are not beyond God's control, even while they think they are invincible. Under the supreme law of God it will become more apparent they are doing exactly what will bring about their downfall. Human history is full of instances of this. In The Age of Faith, historian Will Durant speaks of the monstrous and seemingly invincible empire that Attila the Hun built up in the fifth century A.D., but he says that after a short time it "had broken to pieces and melted away." Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (New York: Random House, 1988), p. 10.


Realism that undercuts the demand for drugs: "I am learning now to do really revolutionary acts."

When I was younger and taking drugs, my friends and I looked at this as part of an alternative. We had been through Vietnam and Watergate, had been exposed to the world of business, and found selfishness, greed, and deceit. We were sickened by this and were rejecting the "realities" of the adult world. We thought of ourselves as revolutionaries and getting high as a revolutionary act, part of creating an alternative culture, leading to a better way: "Tune in, turn on, drop out."

Plus it seemed to provide a lot of pleasure, make us feel good and forget reality. But before long, taking drugs stopped being so pleasurable and became a habit, and not-so-pleasurable side effects set in, like varying degrees of addiction, loss of mental faculties, and an increasing sense of paranoia. It also became clearer that the problems we thought we were escaping from and leaving behind—selfishness, deceit, and so forth—somehow had followed us into our own subculture.

Having discontinued the use of drugs and "come back" to God and the study of Christian Science, I can see that we were not as revolutionary as we thought. We had tried running away, escaping from what we thought was reality and ourselves. And instead of an alternative we had really tried just another form of what we had rejected, seeking our own self-gratification through indulgence in materiality.

I am learning now to do really revolutionary acts, like being obedient to the laws of God, and standing guard over my thought to change it and bring it in line with the ideas of the one Mind, God. I'm learning to see the truth of spiritual reality and harmony even in the face of the seemingly powerful, but erroneous, contrary testimony of the material senses.

This revolution, instead of estranging me from society and leaving me feeling empty, fills me with God's ever-present love and brings me closer to my fellowman and my true spiritual being.

What part do we play?

If God is on the field and is destroying evil, what part do we play? Let's look at Jesus, the Way-shower. We don't know that narcotics addiction was as prevalent a problem in Jesus' day. It is not mentioned in the histories we normally read. But there were plenty of problems comparable in scope. In the Roman world slavery was common, the imperial ruling class was frequently cruel and debauched, and many elements of society were indeed addicted to sexual license of the grossest kind. Jesus referred to his contemporaries as an "adulterous and sinful generation."

What did Jesus do? The primary, the all-important thing he did was to attain—and hold on to—a pure spiritual sense of reality. He lived in the world for a time, and he told his followers that he was leaving them in the world—but he said that he had overcome the world. How did he do this? In the place that mattered most—in thought—through his spirituality.

On the basis of his spirituality and his unceasing prayer, he preached to those who were receptive, and he healed them. All the problems in the world didn't disappear instantly. He carried out his responsibility and then had complete trust that the divine law— God's kingdom—would do the rest.

There's a passage in Science and Health that is so crucial on this point. Mrs. Eddy says at the beginning of the chapter "Atonement and Eucharist" that Jesus "did life's work aright not only in justice to himself, but in mercy to mortals,—to show them how to do theirs, but not to do it for them nor to relieve them of a single responsibility."

Jesus knew that each individual has his or her own responsibility to work out the problem of being—the emperor, the Pharisee, the farmer—and Jesus had complete and calm trust that God would guide them all in the way they could understand and that was best for them.

And Jesus was patient. He never complained that things were not going fast enough. Being patient doesn't mean that Jesus didn't recognize the evil. But he knew that the evil wasn't only the particular forms showing themselves. The real evil was what he called "the wicked one"—"a liar" and the father of lies—the "murderer from the beginning." This is what Mrs. Eddy refers to as mortal mind, the belief in a mind apart from God.

If we follow Jesus' example, we will make it our prime objective to attain the purest concept of spiritual reality that we can. We will pray in the way God inspires us. All this is spiritual light, and it reaches into human consciousness and replaces darkness.

The example of the Way-shower shows so vividly what spiritualized thought can do for human consciousness. Elaine Pagels, the religion historian, has commented on the startling, beneficial effect that Christianity had on sexual practices and marriage, and she puts it in terms of consciousness. She writes that converts to Christianity "changed their attitudes toward the self, toward nature, and toward God, as well as their sense of social and political obligation .... For the most dedicated Christians, conversion transformed both consciousness and behavior; and such converts . . . would profoundly affect the consciousness of all subsequent generations as well." The Age of Faith (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1950), p. 41.

Only one man, eleven faithful disciples, a few friends, and it's never been the same since.

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